Trainers pit their partners against each other in violent contests that result in injuries, making Pokémon battles seem unethical and abusive.

In the Pokémon series, one of the most important aspects of becoming a trainer is battling. Battles also played an essential role in both the Pokémon games and the Pokémon anime series, whether it be battling other trainers, battling Gym Leaders, entering the Championship Leagues, or facing the Elite Four. 

Some may doubt whether it is ethical for young trainers to befriend partners to make them take blows to demonstrate their progress and growth. Pokémon battles are not one-sided, contrary to popular belief, making battle responsibility a shared burden between Pokémon and the trainer.

In a battle of strength, stamina, and strategy, two or more trainers face off against each other, each calling on various members of their team. Since these battles last until both of a trainer’s Pokémon are physically unable to continue, it might appear that they are forcing their Pokémon too hard, mainly because trainers have the option of quitting until their Pokémon is rendered unconscious. 

On the other hand, trainers are taught when to pause and how important it is to listen to their teammates in both the Pokémon anime and game series. As a result, the intensity of Pokémon battles may not be as terrifying as it seems.

The Pokémon games and anime take different approaches to battle and battle safety, but they all have one thing in common. When a Pokémon and its trainer engage in combat, both parties generally agree. Pokémon tend to have an inherent desire to compete against one another. 

When they form a relationship with a trainer, they work as a team, collaborate on battle strategies, and share the risks that come with battling. When Pokémon believe their trainers are not professional enough to make sound decisions or do not want to engage in the battle, they will refuse to fight or listen, implying that a Pokémon will join a battle of its own free will.

Battle Ethics in Pokémon Animated Series

Battle Ethics in Pokémon Animated Series Yehiweb
You can see many examples of how trainer and Pokémon relationships can and should not work in the Pokémon anime series. When a trainer catches a new Pokémon, the consent involved in these bonds is often shown right at the outset of a relationship. When it comes to Ash and Pikachu, Ash must first learn to understand Pikachu before fighting alongside him. Pikachu declines to fight a Spearow for Ash, whom Pikachu has yet to see as a capable trainer in Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You.
During Indigo League, Ash’s Charmeleon, despite his evolution, refuses to listen to him. Instead of coercing the Pokémon into battle, Ash becomes annoyed but never crosses the line of consent with his Pokémon. In Pokémon X and Y, the same occurs as Ash encounters Froakie, who instinctively recognizes Ash as a capable partner with whom to work. In this manner, Ash often catches Pokémon on his side, befriending them first and then becoming their trainer after issuing an invitation.

The animated series often depicts relationships that are negative or abusive. During the movie I Choose You, Ash meets Cross, a young trainer. In the rain, he left his Charmander in favor of what he considers to be superior Pokémon. He sees his Pokémon as a means to claim superiority over others, and he insists that the only quality that counts in combat is power. 

Cross drives his Inceneroar and Lycanroc beyond their limits daily, and Ash and his friends explain how this goes against the essence of good Pokémon battles in narration. Pokémon partnerships, according to Ash, should be about finding new friends first and foremost, a moral he emphasizes in the Pokémon anime series.

Battle Ethics in Pokémon game series

Battle Ethics in Pokémon game series
The bond between Pokémon and the trainer is shown differently in the Pokémon main game series, but with similar ethics. The game depicts the need for experience to work with these more powerful, challenging partners by making Pokémon harder to capture as they get more powerful. Pokémon can only follow their trainer if they are at or below the current Gym Badge level. Each Gym Badge earned raises the Player’s base level, showing the development of the Player’s character and the Pokémon he or she journeys with.
Pokémon who develop friendship levels with their trainers are much more likely to avoid attacks, deliver critical hits, or cling to life by a single HP point when struck by a super-effective move, demonstrating how strong their relationship is. Friendship levels can be earned by petting and playing with Pokémon, catching them in special Pokéballs, and traveling with them, depending on the game. The more time and commitment a player brings into the relationship, the more their Pokémon can trust them in battle.
Even though it is impossible to abuse a Pokémon in the game series, NPCs often emphasize the importance of the trainer-Pokémon relationship and the importance of battling as a team event. In the Pokémon games of Elite Four challenges, the Pokémon themselves, not just the player’s name, are inducted into the Hall of Fame. The Pokémon series emphasizes the importance of teamwork, whether in the show or the games and how a Pokémon journey is not just about the trainer’s growth. Still, the resilience found when working together to overcome any challenges is big or small.
Pokémon battles can be considered entirely safe and ethical to partake in when the series goes to such lengths to instruct players about the value of consent, safety, and teamwork.